Sustainability may not be all it’s cracked up to be. That is the message in a recent paper by a hydrogeologist at Reading University . Michael Price argues that most human advances have been non-sustainable in the long term and that when we talk of ‘sustainable use’ we must define the period over which the use is planned or implemented.
Price identifies three major challenges currently facing Britain and the world. The first is that the climate, and with it the supply of water, is becoming less predictable. Since 1975 Great Britain has suffered four droughts, each of which has been estimated to have a return period of more than 200 years. In 2000-1, parts of England experienced some of the worst instances of flooding on record. Global climate models predict that we can expect more droughts and more periods of heavy rainfall accompanied by increased occurrences of flooding.
The second challenge is that the global demand for fresh water will increase, as population increases and the standard of living improves. It has been argued that in Britain we can counter this increased demand by metering water and making it more expensive. However, consumption of water per head of population in Britain is below that of many other developed countries where domestic water is metered. The stark truth is that demand for water is almost directly related to prosperity - as disposable income increases, water use increases.
Sue Rayner | alphagalileo
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